Written versus Mental
Undoubtedly, you’ve learned or developed a mental checklist, or, if not, you likely will at some point. There’s the famous GUMPS as a before-landing acronym (gas, undercarriage, mixture, prop, seat belt and switches) and CIGAR as a before-takeoff one. And if you don’t have a mental checklist for “in-range” or at final approach fix inbound, start developing one now. The mental checklist will serve as another valuable layer of redundancy and perhaps even a lifesaver in a critical situation with little or no time to consult a written list.
Thorough Preflight Procedures
A safe instrument flight starts with a thorough preflight to minimize the chance of any surprises. Get in the habit of reviewing weather, routing options and, most importantly, contingency plans. This review should include planned routes and altitudes and alternate airports along your route.
Also review the expected arrivals, departures and approach procedures at airports of intended use and rehearse your departure and arrival plan. And always take note of the minimum safe altitudes (MSA).
An instrument proficiency check doesn’t just need to be accomplished when the regulations say so. In fact, if you heed much of this advice, it is hoped you’ll never be required to have an IPC. But yes, you should voluntarily participate in meaningful IPCs. Venture outside your comfort zone with an instructor in the interest of your personal development as an instrument pilot.
Use Flight Simulators or Flight Training Devices
There are many options for simulator software and full flight training devices that can provide a wealth of training value. The simulator environment will allow you to rehearse multiple procedures in quick succession in a variety of locations in an efficient manner. You’ll be able to experience realistic weather conditions and work through system malfunctions and failures in a much safer setting than in the aircraft.
Maintain the Personal Minimums Discipline
Finally, regardless of your adherence to a proficiency program, the discipline is ultimately adhering to your personal minimums. Personal minimums are just that — personal. It’s not something you can read in a book. Stay within your comfort zone, continuously question your guidelines, and, remember, an occasional feeling of trepidation is healthy.
Eric Radtke is an airline transport pilot, Gold Seal flight instructor, advanced ground instructor and NAFI-accredited Master flight instructor. Eric has been involved in aviation education since 1998 and currently serves as president and chief instructor of Sporty’s Academy — the educational arm of Sporty’s Pilot Shop.